Rated R for sexuality, profanity, graphic nudity and disturbing violence
Teen Stalked By Demonic Spirit After Sexual Encounter In Harrowing Horror Flick
Jay (Maika Moore) had no reason to consider the worst possible consequence the night she impulsively decided to have sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) for the very first time. After all, she found the moonlit lakefront setting romantic enough, even if that meant doing it in the back of his car.
Nevertheless, the carefree 19-year-old was in for a rude awakening, a fate far worse than an STD or an unplanned pregnancy. For, while basking in the afterglow of spent passion, Hugh sneaks up from behind and knocks out the girl he’s just made love to by covering her face with a cloth dipped in chloroform.
When Jay comes to, she finds herself bound and gagged in a strange basement. Hugh proceeds to explain that she’s just been used by him, but not for a thrill. Rather, he had been followed by a demonic force that could only be eluded by having sex with a partner. Before freeing her, he urges her to sleep with someone else in order to pass on the curse before the ghost has a chance to kill her.
Although initially skeptical, it doesn’t take long for the sudden appearance of apparitions to convince terrified Jay that something supernatural is indeed afoot. And the more she’s in fear for her life, the more she actually has to consider seduction for the sake of survival. For instance, there’s Paul (Keir Gilchrist), the nerdy neighbor who has had a crush on her since childhood.
That novel scenario is established at the point of departure of It Follows, a harrowing horror flick written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. The movie marks the sophomore offering from the innovative director, who first made a splash five years ago with The Myth Of The American Sleepover.
However, It Follows is a truly groundbreaking thriller that it would be a crime to spoil in a review. Suffice to say it’s as much of a mindbender as the equally-inscrutable Memento (2000).
A creepy, counterintuitive fright fest that puts a perverse spin on the meaning of getting lucky.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 101 minutes
Lions Gate Films
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, pervasive violence, intense action, mature themes and brief profanity
Shailene Woodley Radiates Chemistry Aplenty As Heroine Of Satisfying Sequel
Insurgent is the second in the action-oriented series of screen adaptations based on Veronica Roth’s blockbuster Divergent trilogy. This installment represents a rarity for a cinematic sequel in that it’s actually better than the first episode.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the franchise’s basic premise, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi is set amidst the crumbling ruins of a walled-in Chicago where what’s left of humanity has been strictly divided into five factions based on personality types, namely, Abnegation (the selfless); Amity (the peaceful); Candor (the honest); Dauntless (the brave); and Erudite (the intelligent).
Our intrepid heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley) was deemed a threat to society after testing positive for several of the aforementioned qualities since that makes her a Divergent, one of the handful of nonconformists whose minds the government cannot control. Consequently, the headstrong rebel ended up orphaned and roaming the streets with fellow faction-less rogues by the end of the original.
Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, though upping the ante in terms of intensity and visually-captivating special f/x. At the point of departure, we find Tris on the run with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and the duplicitous Peter Hayes (Miles Teller). The fugitives are being sought by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the monomaniacal Erudite leader who has seized control of the city by commandeering the Dauntless warrior class.
The Machiavellian despot has declared martial law until all threats to her power have been neutralized. Meanwhile, Tris and company proceed to elude apprehension as they search for a sacred talisman supposedly hidden somewhere by her late mom (Ashley Judd).
The ancient artifact is rumored to contain an important message from Chicago’s founding fathers. However, the box can only be accessed by a Divergent who succeeds at surviving an ordeal testing for all five of the commonwealth’s designated virtues. Sure, it’s obvious that Tris is bright, fearless and altruistic. But she could perish in the process of attempting to prove herself a pacifist and truthful, too.
Fans of the source material will undoubtedly be surprised by this complicated box challenge which wasn’t in the book. Nevertheless, the seamlessly-interwoven plot device works in terms of ratcheting up the tension.
The film features an A-list supporting cast that includes Oscar winners Kate Winslet and Octavia Spencer and nominee Naomi Watts, along with effective performances on the part of Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller. Still, make no mistake. Insurgent is a Shailene Woodley vehicle from beginning to end.
And the rising young star exhibits an impressive acting range in a physically as well as emotionally-demanding role promising to do for her what The Hunger Games did for Jennifer Lawrence.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 119 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 20, 2015
The Gunman (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic violence) Pierre Morel (Taken) directed this international action thriller revolving around a military vet-turned-soldier of fortune (Sean Penn) ready to retire but on the run to clear his name when he unfairly becomes marked for assassination. With Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Jasmine Trinca.
Tracers (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, peril and intense violence) Action thriller, set in NYC, about a bike messenger (Taylor Lautner) on the run from Chinese mobsters who joins forces with a parkour-practicing gang with the help of a fetching femme fatale (Marie Avgeropoulos). With Rafi Gavron, Adam Rayner and Sam Medina.
Amour Fou (Unrated) Costume drama, set in Berlin in the Romantic Era, about a young poet (Christian Friedel) who enters a suicide pact with a terminally-ill socialite (Schnoeink) after failing to convince his kissing cousin (Sandra Hueller) to do so. Supporting cast includes Stephan Crossmann, Barbara Schnitzler and Marc Bischoff. (In German with subtitles)
Compared To What (Unrated) Prestige biopic painting an intimate portrait of former Congressman Barney Frank, who represented Massachusetts’ 4th District in the House of Representatives from 1981-2013.
Danny Collins (R for profanity, nudity and drug use) Al Pacino plays the title character in this fact-based tale as an aging, aspiring rock star who decides to clean up his act and reconnect with his family after rereading a 40-year-old letter sent to him by John Lennon. With Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale and Melissa Benoist.
Do You Believe? (Unrated) Serendipitous, faith-based drama revolving around a dozen strangers who turn to Christ after their lives unexpectedly intersect in catastrophic fashion. Co-starring Lee Majors, Mira Sorvino, Cybill Shepherd, Ted McGinley, Sean Astin, Brian Bosworth, Andrea Logan White and Shwayze.
Growing Up And Other Lies (Unrated) Buddy drama about a guy (Josh Lawson) moving back to Ohio who persuades his BFFS (Adam Brody, Wyatt Cenac and Danny Jacobs) to spend his last day in NYC reminiscing while walking all around Manhattan. With Amber Tamblyn, Scott Adsit and Lauren Miller
Hunting Elephants (Unrated) Israeli crime comedy, set in Jerusalem, about a trio of revenge-minded retirees (Sasson Gabai, Patrick Stewart and Moni Moshonov) who hatch a plan to rob a bank with the help of a precocious 12-year-old (Gil blank). Featuring Yael Abecassis, Tzvika Hadar and Moshe Ivgy. (In Hebrew and English with subtitles)
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (Unrated) Rinko Kikuchi handles the title role in this character-driven drama inspired by the urban legend about a cash-strapped woman who migrates from Japan to the U.S. in order to find the loot the film Fargo suggested is buried somewhere in Minnesota. With Shirley Venard, Nobuyuki Katsube, and David and Nathan Zellner. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)
Lily & Kat (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy about the strain placed on a couple of inseparable friends’ (Jessica Rothe and Hannah Murray) relationship when one suddenly announces that she’s moving from NYC to London in less than a week. Cast includes Jack Falahee, David Wilson Barnes and Mimi Gianopulos.
Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed (Unrated) Road comedy, set in Spain in 1966, revolving around a rabid Beatles fan (Javier Camara) who picks up a couple of hitchhikers (Francesc Colomer and Natalia de Molina) while en route to a movie set where John Lennon is rumored to be shooting a film. With Ramon Fontsere, Rogelio Fernandez and Jorge Sanz. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Secret Of Water (Unrated) Eye-opening, eco exposé illustrating the toll that humans’ misuse of H2O is taking on the planet and a precious natural resource.
She’s Lost Control (Unrated) Psychological drama about a lonely sexual surrogate (Brooke Bloom) whose life starts to unravel when she crosses an ethical line by becoming emotionally involved with her new doctor client (Marc Menchaca). With Laila Robins, Ryan Homchick and Roxanne Day.
Zombeavers (R for gory violence, crude humor, graphic sexuality, gratuitous nudity and pervasive profanity) High attrition-rate, horror comedy about a group of college kids whose plans for a wild weekend of debauchery at a riverside cabin is ruined by the arrival of a horde of bloodthirsty zombie beavers. Co-starring Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm and Lexi Atkins.